By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The Republican front-runner in the race for Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has increased his lead over likely Democratic rival Wendy Davis, according to a poll released on Monday.
State Attorney General Abbott has an 11-percentage-point lead over State Senator Davis, the poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune found. That was a wider lead than the six-point edge Abbott held in a November poll.
Davis enjoyed an early boost last year following a marathon filibuster against proposed state abortion restrictions, but the more recent figures suggest a tough road ahead for her in Republican-dominated Texas, where Democrats have not won a statewide race since 1994.
"The early boost to Wendy Davis's candidacy evident in the fall seems to have subsided into a more recognizable Texas pattern, at least at this stage of the campaign," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas and a co-director of the poll.
The latest poll found that 47 percent of likely voters planned to cast their ballot for the Republican candidate, with 36 percent preferring the Democrat and 17 percent undecided.
Both candidates are expected to post easy victories in the March 4 primary elections, then square off in the general election in November.
If Davis can keep Abbott's margin of victory to less than 10 percentage points, it could enliven the Democrats as demographic numbers shift in the party's favor, analysts said.
Under current projections, the state's Hispanic population could become the majority by around 2030, potentially tipping the political balance to the Democrats.
Davis, 50, gained national standing in 2013 when she donned pink running shoes for her dramatic 10-hour filibuster at the statehouse against sweeping abortion restrictions, which ultimately passed.
The Davis campaign took its first major stumble in January when the candidate acknowledged embellishing small parts of her escape-from-poverty biography that helped her rise to political prominence.
Abbott, 56, took a hit in the media for going out on the campaign trail this month with Ted Nugent just weeks after the aging rocker made racially charged comments about President Barack Obama.
The poll was conducted between Feb. 7-17 among 1,200 registered Texas voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.28 percentage points. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)
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